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Valentine Penrose

Valentine Penrose (née Boué; 1 January 1898 – 7 August 1978), was a French surrealist poet, author and collagist.

Valentine Penrose
BornValentine Boué
(1898-01-01)1 January 1898
Mont-de-Marsan, Landes, France
Died7 August 1978(1978-08-07) (aged 80)
Chiddingly, East Sussex, England
OccupationPoet, author, collagist
Roland Penrose
(m. 1925; div. 1937)



Valentine Boué was born in 1898 to a military family in Mont-de-Marsan, Landes, France. The family moved to Paris when she was very young.[1]

In 1925 she married the English artist, historian and poet Roland Penrose (1900-1984) and joined the community of surrealists based in Paris, Mougins and England. They were divorced in 1937, but met again in London during the war, after which she lived half her time with her ex-husband and his second wife, the American photojournalist Lee Miller. This arrangement continued for the rest of her life.[1][2]

She joined the French Army in 1940.[1]

She died on 7 August 1978 in Chiddingly, East Sussex, England, in the house of her ex-husband.

Literary style and influencesEdit

Valentine Penrose wrote surrealist poetry, although she is perhaps best known for her biography of the serial killer Elizabeth Báthory (1560-1614). Her poetry reflects her experience of automatic writing, collage and painting techniques such as Max Ernst’s frottage and Wolfgang Paalen’s fumage.[1]

Penrose was interested in female mysticism, alchemy and the occult. She met Count Galarza Santa Clara in Egypt, a master of the esoteric, and made several visits to his ashram in India. In 1936 she made an extended visit to India with the poet and painter Alice Paalen (later Alice Rahon). They become very close and their relationship is shown in their poetry from 1936 to about 1945.[1][3][4]

From 1937 she started writing on lesbianism, always with the same lovers: Emily and Rubia. This dominates Martha's Opéra (1945), and Dons des Féminines (1951).[1]

Penrose's work was admired by Paul Eluard, who wrote prefaces for Herbe à la lune (1935) and Dons des féminines (1951).[5] She also knew the surrealist poet André Breton.[6]

Penrose made surrealist collages. Dons des Féminines (1951) combines her collages and poetry.[3]


French PoetryEdit

  • Penrose, Valentine (1935). Herbe à la lune. Eluard, Paul (preface). Editions GLM.
  • — (1937). Sorts de la lueur. Editions GLM.
  • — (1937). Poèmes. Editions GLM.
  • — (1951). Dons des Féminines. Eluard, Paul (preface); Penrose, Valentine (illustator). Les pas Perdus. (Collages and poems by Valentine Penrose. One edition had additional illustrations by Pablo Picasso).[7][8]
  • — (1972). Les Magies. Les Mains Libres.
  • — (2001). Colville, Georgiana M. M., ed. Ecrits d'une femme surréaliste. Paris: J. Losfeld. ISBN 2844120911. (Anthology of works of Valentine Penrose)

French ProseEdit

  • — (1936). La Nouvelle Candide. Editions GLM.
  • — (1945). Martha's Opéra. Fontaine.
  • — (1962). Erzsébet Báthory la Comtesse sanglante. Gallimard / Mercure de France.

Works translated into EnglishEdit

  • — (1977). Poems and Narrations. Edwards, R (translator). Littlehampton Book Services Ltd. ISBN 978-0856352072.
  • — (2006). The Bloody Countess: Atrocities of Erzsébet Báthory. Trocchi, Alexander (translator). Solar Books. ISBN 0-9714578-2-4. (Translation of Erzsébet Báthory la Comtesse sanglante)


Penrose acted in the following films:


  1. ^ a b c d e f Colvile, Georgiana (1997). "Penrose, Valentine Boué". In Makward Christiane P.; Cottenet-Hage, Madeleine. Dictionnaire littéraire des femmes de langue française: De Marie de France à Marie NDiaye (in French). Karthala. pp. 463–465.
  2. ^ Kellaway, Kate (22 August 2010). "Tony Penrose: 'With Picasso, the rule book was torn up'". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  3. ^ a b Roush, Paula; Lusitano, Maria (2013). "Les deux amies / The two girlfriends (Gifts of the Feminine)" (PDF). Fundação EDP, Lisbon. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  4. ^ Colvile, Georgiana M. M. (1996). "Through an Hour-glass lightly: Valentine Penrose and Alice Rahon Paalen". In King, Russell; McGuirk, Bernard. Reconceptions Reading Modern French Poetry (PDF). University of Nottingham. p. 102. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 15, 2012.
  5. ^ "Penrose, Valentine". Writers History Literature Portal. Archived from the original on 8 May 2014. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  6. ^ "Roland Penrose Biography". Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  7. ^ "3388: Penrose, Valentine: Dons des Feminines". Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  8. ^ "Pablo Picasso: Valentine Penrose, Dons de Féminines, Les Pas perdus". Christies. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  9. ^ "L'Age d'Or". IMBD.
  10. ^ "La Garope". IMDB. Retrieved 8 May 2014.

Further readingEdit

Colvile, Georgiana M. M. (1996). "Through an Hour-glass lightly: Valentine Penrose and Alice Rahon Paalen". In King, Russell; McGuirk, Bernard. Reconceptions Reading Modern French Poetry (PDF). University of Nottingham. pp. 81–112. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 15, 2012.